Lupus is a disease of the immune system and can affect almost anyone. However, people of Chinese, Afro-Caribbean and Asian descent are far more likely to develop the disease. Lupus causes the immune system to attack healthy tissues in various parts of the body. In lupus dermatitis, the immune system affects skin cells. It can occur in both men and women, but lupus primarily affects women – over 90% of lupus cases are in females, in particular females of between 14-49 (child-bearing age).
Symptoms of Lupus
There are many symptoms of lupus because so many areas of the body can be affected, and they are as follows:
- Joint pain
- Swollen joints
- Swollen ankles
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Hair loss
- Skin rash
In particular, lupus dermatitis can cause the following problems:
- Rashes, in particular, a butterfly shaped rash that forms across the bridge of the nose and cheeks
- Hair loss, from damaged hair follicles on the skin
- Mouth ulcers
There is a particular form of lupus, named ‘discoid lupus’ that affects only the skin. This can cause various problems, but in particular, large, red, circular rashes that have a tendency to scar. There is also a skin rash called the ‘bullous’ skin rash which causes large blisters. In general, all skin rashes caused by lupus will be aggravated by the sun, and in some cases, will get far worse after sun exposure.
What Causes Lupus?
Currently, it’s unknown what the exact cause of lupus is, although it’s known that a combination of environmental factors, lifestyle, and genetics play a big part. The cause obviously has something to do with hormones, due to the huge amount of women who contract the disease. There are currently huge research efforts in discovering the causes of lupus.
How is Lupus Treated?
Because lupus is such a complex disease, it can be difficult to treat, especially with how often your symptoms can change. Your treatment will depend on how much of your body is affected, or whether your skin is just affected. If just your skin is affected, you may be prescribed creams and steroids, but if other parts of your body are affected, such as your kidneys, you may need powerful medication. An important part of treatment is to maintain regular contact with a doctor.
If you have discoid lupus, you may encounter some of the following treatments.
Hydroxychloroquine – this is a medicine that’s used to treat mild joint problems and skin problems that are related to lupus. It prevents lupus flare-ups and is effective at keeping skin problems under control.
Steroids – many lupus skin problems will be treated with steroid creams. These are helpful because they can be applied directly to the rash. Many steroid creams will be used in conjunction with a steroid tablet, and it’s likely that you’ll be under a fair amount of supervision because of how strong steroids can be.
Sun Limitation – the sun is an absolute key factor in your symptoms. Your doctor will either suggest that you severely restrict your sun exposure, or have no sun exposure at all. Because the sun will aggravate your rash so much, it’s really advised that you avoid it as much as possible.
What is the Outlook for People With Lupus?
It really depends on your symptoms and how severe they are. This means that you can expect to have an entirely normal lifespan, depending on how you treat your symptoms. Make sure to regularly check in with your doctor or treatment team and stick to your treatment plan, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be able to live a normal life.